Each quarter, we award fifty dollars to a reader who submits the best feedback on a piece appearing in the current issue of The Summerset Review. The goals of this unique contest are to promote the awareness and visibility of literary magazines in our world and culture, and to get continued assurance that we have indeed connected with our readers.

For information on how to submit your feedback, see our Guidelines page. There is no entry fee. Submissions must be made by June 1, 2011, and comments must pertain to material in this issue.

The award winner this quarter is -

Ekweremadu Franklin Uchenna of Kaduna State, Nigeria

Ekweremadu writes -

R. L. Ugolini's narrative and descriptive prowess in her short story, "Fallow," is like what I encountered when I first read Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, and her painting of farm life is also like what I saw in Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres. But in a whole, the richness of "Fallow," is what I don't think I have found in a short story before. Imagine the vivid portrayal of Lenore's hypersensitivity and long-suffering, or rather, learned helplessness, which is much required of the ideal housewife. Imagine the surrealistic scene in which mere body contact with plant and soil excites and arouses her; her fertilization (conception) after spending time inside the farm, covered by pollens and sticky silks.

I was born in what used to be a farm settlement. I still live there. I remember some of our childhood adventures, when my friends and I used to sneak into maize or sugarcane farms. I understand the smell of wet soil. I understand the itch and the painful cuts from the blades of the plants, when they rub the arms and neck. I understand the changes wrought on plants by seasonal changes. And all those old memories came back as I read this short story.

Another thing that strikes me odd is the weird nature of Caleb, who grows with the plants, undergoing physiological changes as does the farm, inside of which he was apparently conceived. It brings to my mind a traditional way of healing, a process that is still practiced in my place, whereby the native doctor deliberately breaks a hatchling's leg and then attends to the chick, using it as a barometer to help determine the recovery of the actual person he is treating.

The work raises, at least, one question, the same question I encountered in Buchi Emecheta's Joys of Motherhood: Is there real joy in motherhood? Maybe there is, but maybe the ordeals and pains surpass the joy? Well, maybe not. I would not know.

Another thing is that, even until the end, Ugolini leaves the reader wondering if Lenore was truly alone that night inside the maize farm, or if her secret lover 'met' her there. Perhaps, that is what I like most about the work: the mysterious nature surrounding Caleb's conception.